How Often Should You Lift to Build Muscle?



In the quest for serious size, everyone from the newbie to the gym rat has asked the all-important question: “How often should you lift to build muscle mass?”

Muscle hypertrophy or muscle growth happens when the muscle fibers are worked to the point when microtears begin to form. After your workout, your body jumps into repairing these tears, helping the muscle to become bigger and stronger than before. What’s the magic number of workouts to ensure you trigger hypertrophy?

Let’s take a look at the two most common ways to lift and which one has been proven to be superior to build muscle fast.

Each Muscle Group: Once or Twice a Week?

The most common way to look at how often should you work out is whether you are exercising each muscle group once or twice per week.

Once-a-week workouts are the classic workout program. Chances are that you are most likely using one right now. If you’re targeting one muscle or combining two muscle groups per day, you’re using this format.

These workouts tend to have more volume. In other words, you’re jamming all of the needed sets and repetitions into one workout for each muscle group. Once-a-week workouts will usually take around an hour and a half to complete.

Here’s an example of a once per week workout:

  • Monday: Legs
  • Tuesday: Chest and Triceps
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Back and Biceps
  • Friday: Shoulders and Abs
  • Saturday and Sunday: Rest

Twice-a-week training rearranges your typical workout into either full-body or upper and lower body splits. By doing this, you’ll be hitting each major muscle group two and even three times per week.

Twice-a-week workouts will usually have lower set ranges per workout. For example, during a once-a-week workout, you may have five or six sets of an exercise whereas with twice-a-week workouts, you’ll usually only complete two or three sets for one exercise each workout.

The reason behind this is simple: Since you are targeting each muscle group two or three times throughout the week, you’ll want to spread out the volume.

Here’s an example of a full-body workout schedule:

  • Monday: Full-body
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Full-body
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Full-body
  • Saturday and Sunday: Rest

And here’s an example on an upper and lower split workout:

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Tuesday: Lower Body
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Upper Body
  • Friday: Lower Body
  • Saturday and Sunday: Rest

Is one way necessarily better than the other?

What the Science Says

Both workout formats will show results but for maximum hypertrophy or muscle growth, the science tends to lean towards hitting the muscle groups twice per week.

Studies show that you’ll see greater muscle mass gains by targeting each muscle group two or three times per week. What’s more, twice-a-week workouts tend to be safer. How’s that possible?

Since you are spreading the volume out over the course of the week, your body has more time to recover. Also, you’re less likely to burn out because you aren’t cramming a ridiculous amount of sets and reps into one workout. This means a lower risk of injury and better results.

Friday: Full-Body

  • Romanian Deadlifts: 2 x 8-12
  • Jump Squats: 2 x 12-15
  • Flat Bench Barbell Press: 2 x 8-12
  • Low Cable Row: 2 x 8-12
  • Lateral Dumbbell Raise: 2 x 8-12
  • Triangle Push-ups: 1 x 12-15
  • Chin-Ups: 1 x 12-15
  • Seated Calf Raises: 1 x failure
  • Plank: 1 x failure

Saturday and Sunday: Rest / Light Cardio

  • Focus on the following:
  • Getting at least 8 hours of sleep
  • Keeping your protein intake high
  • Walking and stretching

Advanced Workout

If this isn’t your first rodeo, give this advanced workout a try. It splits up your upper and lower body workouts, allowing you to crank up the intensity.

Monday: Upper Body

  • Incline Barbell Bench Press: 3 x 8-12
  • Barbell Rows: 3 x 8-12
  • Military Dumbbell Press: 3 x 8-12
  • Overhead Triceps Extensions with Cable Pulley: 2 x 12-15
  • Hammer Curls: 2 x 12-15
  • Medicine Ball Crunches: 2 x 12-15
  • Burpees: 2 x 12-15

Tuesday: Lower Body

  • Barbell Squats: 3 x 8-12
  • Jefferson Squats: 3 x 8-12
  • Romanian Deadlifts: 3 x 8-12
  • Hip Adduction Machine: 3 x 8-12
  • Calf Raises: 2 x failure
  • Calf Press: 2 x failure

Wednesday: Rest / Light Cardio

  • Focus on the following:
  • Getting at least 8 hours of sleep
  • Keeping your protein intake high
  • Walking and stretching

Thursday: Upper Body

  • Dumbbell Flys: 3 x 8-12
  • Lat Pulldown: 3 x 8-12
  • Lateral Raises: 3 x 8-12
  • Triangle Push-ups: 2 x 12-15
  • Preacher Curls: 2 x 12-15
  • Russian Twists: 2 x 12-15
  • Plank: 2 x failure

Friday: Lower Body

  • Split Squats: 3 x 8-12
  • Jump Squats: 3 x 8-12
  • Leg Curls: 3 x 8-12
  • Hip Abduction Machine: 3 x 8-12
  • Calf Press: 2 x failure
  • Seated Calf Raise: 2 x failure

Saturtay and Sunday: Rest / Light Cardio

  • Focus on the following:
  • Getting at least 8 hours of sleep
  • Keeping your protein intake high
  • Walking and stretching

How Often Do You Train Each Muscle Group?

Are you a fan of the twice-a-week workouts? Have you seen great results only targeting each muscle group once per week? Want to know which body type you are and which workout routine suits you best?

Click the link here for our body type article.

Topic: Build Muscle Articles